Love them or loathe them, annual appraisals are an essential part of every nurse’s job. With new revalidation rules coming into force from 31 December 2015, there’s even more reason to invest time and effort into documenting your performance. Whether you have a review coming up, or are a nurse manager doing them for the first time, here’s how to get the most out of your next appraisal.
Gather your evidence
The recently simplified NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) adopted a more informal approach to evidence gathering, stating: ‘If managers and staff are discussing performance on a regular basis, there is no need for staff to produce written evidence for the appraisal or to discuss every skill and knowledge area, but just to focus on the specific development needs.’
However, new revalidation rules place a greater emphasis on recording and reflecting on performance, so it pays to prepare by doing this work in your appraisal. While you would ideally discuss performance with your manager throughout the year, in reality that doesn’t always happen.
If you’re in any doubt, it’s better to have too much evidence than not enough, according to Cathy Taylor, careers advisor at the Royal College of Nursing.
‘You will only get out of your appraisal what you put in. Your manager does not sit on your shoulder throughout the year, so make sure you provide plenty of evidence about your achievements.
‘This can take the form of discussion about patient and colleague feedback; thank you cards; evidence of learning completed; projects you’ve been involved with; extra responsibilities you’ve held and any reflections on successes. The better your evidence gathering skills, the easier the revalidation process will be.’
How appraisals are linked to revalidation
The evidence you include in your year-end evaluation can be used to prepare for your revalidation portfolio, which must include practice related feedback; five reflective accounts to show what you have learnt from CPD activity or feedback (which can be formal or informal, written or verbal), plus how you have improved your practice and how it’s relevant to the newly updated NMC Code.
The revalidation process requires you to explain how what you have learnt has changed your practice, so keep this in mind when gathering evidence at appraisal time. Learning opportunities can include training courses, conferences, articles you’ve read, and case-management meetings you’ve participated in.
Collecting feedback from patients (gathering letters, stories and data with consent) is one way to capture learning in practice. Evidence from colleagues, for example, if you have carried out observations of practice and given verbal and written feedback, can be used too.
The person who carries out your appraisal can also play a role in confirming your fitness to practice under the new revalidation rules.
10 tips for nurse managers
Managers are generally advised not to review more than 10 to 12 people each year. If you have more, consider delegating some of your review responsibilities.
Make sure you know how many nurses are coming up for revalidation each year, so that you can devote more time for appraisals and sorting out any training requirements.
Prepare for the meeting a week in advance. Avoid making generalised comments ‘your time management is poor’. Go prepared with specific incidents to illustrate the points you want to make. And remember issues about performance should have been raised at the time of the problem occurring, rather than saved up for appraisal time.
Staff need to prepare for the meeting too. Allow them some protected work time for this.
Help put an employee at ease by holding the review somewhere private that allows you to sit adjacent to them, rather than opposite a large rectangular table.
Outline what they can expect to happen at the start of the meeting. “First, we’ll review your last years’ objectives, and talk about what you think went well and didn’t go as well as you’d hope, then we’ll discuss your objectives for next year and your career development plan.”
An appraisal should be a two-way discussion. Start proceedings by asking how they feel about how well they’ve met their objectives over the year and give them ample opportunity to express their viewpoint.
Give praise and credit where it’s due. Concentrating on things the person has done well will encourage further good performance. Nitpicking will only undermine confidence and motivation.
A year-end evaluation is not the time to raise new issues. If you have concerns about a member of staff’s performance, these should have been identified and discussed previously. Holding quarterly reviews will help keep things stay on track – and ensure there are no surprises during the annual meeting.
Don’t shy away from discussing under performance. Any modifications to behaviour should be dealt with immediately after the incident, and not stored up until the review. That said, appraisals are a good opportunity to reiterate what changes need to be made and keep track of progress.
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